Scarborough girls cool off the Bulldogs

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SCARBOROUGH—The calendar has flipped to October, which means that the Scarborough girls’ soccer team is rounding into form.

And that’s bad news for the rest of the league.

Saturday afternoon at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, the Red Storm cooled down one of the hottest teams in Class A South, Portland, with a dominant 80 minute performance. 

Scarborough peppered Bulldogs senior goalkeeper Taylor Crosby from the get go and broke through in the 17th minute when junior Leah Dickman scored.

With 5:19 to go before halftime, sophomore Josie Couture doubled the lead with a gorgeous blast and the Red Storm took a 2-0 advantage to the break.

In the second half, Scarborough held Portland at bay and after failing to finish some good chances, got a third goal with just over five minutes to go, as junior Gaby Panagakos scored.

The Red Storm then went on to close out a 3-0 victory.

Scarborough won its fifth game in a row, improved to 6-1-2, snapped the Bulldogs’ three-game win streak and dropped them to 5-2-2 in the process.

“I think that was the most complete 80 minutes we’ve had offensively,” said Red Storm coach Mike Farley. “Leah was getting the ball and settling it down and Gaby and AP (senior Ashley Perriello) were dangerous on the wings. If we play like that for 80 minutes, we’ll be tough to beat. I think Portland saw our best game. For whatever reason, today was the day we turned it on.”

In the running

Portland and Scarborough have both played well this fall and are entertaining thoughts of doing big things later this month.

The Bulldogs, who were ousted by Kennebunk in last year’s preliminary round, opened with a 3-0 home win over Cheverus, then settled for 1-1 draws at Noble and at home against perennial powerhouse Windham. After beating Thornton Academy, 1-0, for the first time in a dozen years, Portland dropped a controversial 2-1 overtime decision at Marshwood, then blanked visiting Massabesic (6-0) and Westbrook (3-0) and Wednesday, held off visiting South Portland, 2-1.

Scarborough beat host Deering in the opener, 3-1. After tying visiting Sanford, 2-2, the Red Storm were upset by visiting Bonny Eagle, 1-0, and settled for a scoreless draw at defending regional champion Gorham. Scarborough then hit its stride, blanking host South Portland (4-0), visiting Maine Girls’ Academy (5-0) and host Biddeford (10-0), before rallying Wednesday to knock off visiting Cheverus, 3-1, a decision which gave Farley his 150th victory.

Entering play Saturday, the teams had met 15 times, with the Red Storm winning on 12 occasions, the Bulldogs taking two games and one other ending in a tie. Of late, however, it’s been all Scarborough, which had won seven straight, including the past six by a composite 28-1 margin (Portland’s only goal in that span came from Isabel Stehli in the 2014 meeting). 

Saturday, on an overcast and chilly afternoon, the Bulldogs hoped to beat the Red Storm for the first time since a 2-0 triumph in Scarborough Oct. 9, 2008, but the Red Storm held serve again.

It took less than two minutes for Scarborough to get its first good scoring chance, but junior Lauren Sabatino shot wide. 

In the sixth minute, Crosby made her first dynamite save. Off a Red Storm corner kick, Panagakos served the ball right on to the head of junior Sophie Glidden, who sent it on target, but Crosby instinctively got her hands up and batted the ball over the crossbar and Portland cleared the ensuing corner kick.

Glidden came close again on a corner in the 11th minute, this time with her foot, but again, Crosby made the save.

After Crosby beat Perriello to a Dickman through ball and Panagakos couldn’t take advantage of an opportunity with Crosby out of the net, Scarborough drew first blood.

With 23:38 left, the Bulldogs had two chances to clear the ball, but failed to do so and Dickman won the ball and beat Crosby with a shot to the upper left corner for a 1-0 lead.

“That first goal was important,” said Couture. “That built up our spirits and made us work harder.”

The Red Storm weren’t content to sit on their lead and soon doubled it.

After senior Jillian Ware shot wide, junior Natalie Taylor headed a shot wide, Crosby beat senior Katie Farino to a through ball from junior Ellie Patten and Sabatino had a shot saved, Couture was able to show off her finishing ability.

With 5:19 to go before the half, Couture, who only sees 10 to 15 minutes most games, got the ball about 25 yards out and in one motion, ripped a left-footed shot that sailed over the outstretched hand of Crosby and into the net for a 2-0 lead.

It was Couture’s second varsity goal.

“Lauren and I were both going after the ball and it came to me so I just shot it,” Couture said. “It felt pretty good. I was hoping it would go in.”

“(Josie’s) left footed, so when the ball fell like that, I knew she just had to strike it,” Farley said. “She hit it with great pace in the upper corner of the goal. For someone who doesn’t get in much, to be that on target, that was a big moment for her. That was her first big varsity goal, a seed like that. It’s good to see younger kids step up because we need them for the depth of our team. That goal let the pressure off of us.” 

Two minutes later, Perriello nearly broke the game open, but her left-footed blast was denied by a diving Crosby.

Scarborough had a 6-0 shots advantage and a 6-1 edge in corner kicks in the first half. 

Little changed in the second half.

After Crosby denied Sabatino twice and Panagakos shot wide, Crosby saved a shot by Perriello. 

With 26:45 to play, Crosby came out to break up a through ball to Panagakos. The ensuing collision sent the ball free to Perriello, but she shot high.

After the Bulldogs managed their first shot on goal in the 55th minute, a bid from junior Gracie Lagrange that was easily saved by Scarborough junior goalkeeper Emily Royce, Crosby made her best save with 24:39 to go, when Perriello set up Panagakos for what appeared to be a sure goal, but Crosby again dove to rob her. 

With 12 minutes left, Portland’s best chance came when Lagrange lofted a shot on target, but Royce stretched to snare the ball. 

Scarborough had three looks on a corner kick in the 73rd minute, but sophomore Jess Rinaldi’s bid was saved and after the rebound got free, Dickman was off target and another shot from Perriello went wide.

The Red Storm got their third goal with 5:19 to play and it was Panagakos delivering the dagger with a beautiful rocket from some 20 yards out up top. Panagakos’ shot sailed too high for Crosby to reach and the lead was 3-0.

Down the stretch, Royce came out to break up a rush by Portland freshman Annika More and Scarborough was able to run out the clock on its victory.

“I think it was one of our better efforts,” Couture said. “We worked really well the entire game, not just the second half. They had the same record as we did, so we knew we couldn’t take them lightly.”

“I was surprised how well we defended,” Farley said. “They have some dangerous players up top. We did a great job handling their pressure, getting the ball and starting the attack the other way.

Scarborough finished with a 13-3 shots advantage and took nine corners to just one for Portland. Royce made three saves.

Crosby made 10 saves for the Bulldogs, including several that looked as if they would wind up in the back of the net.

“Taylor is class,” Portland coach Curtis Chapin said. “She made three or four huge saves minimum. Most goalies in the state couldn’t have saved those.”

“She had two or three saves where she had to sprawl and make a save where with other goalkeepers, the ball would have gone in,” Farley said. “Even the goals we scored were world class shots. She’s really tough. Unfortunately for her, the goals were in the upper 90 or in the corner.”

Down the stretch they come

Portland (now seventh in the Class A South Heal Points standings) hopes to bounce back Wednesday at Bonny Eagle. After hosting Gorham Friday, the Bulldogs finish at Biddeford, at home versus Sanford and at Deering.

“I know we’re a better team than this,” Chapin said. “We all expected coming in here to get a result. We gave them a little too much respect early and stepped off and gave up too much space.

“We’re disappointed, but we have some games to make up for it and feel better. We’ll get back to work Monday and we expect to be better. This should inspire the girls. We’d been rolling for a bit and now we’ve been knocked back. Knowing these girls, I know they’ll respond.” 

Scarborough (currently first in Class A South) is at Westbrook Wednesday and welcomes Thornton Academy Saturday. The Red Storm then go to Marshwood, host Massabesic and close at Windham.

“This gives us a lot of confidence going forward, but we know we have to keep playing strong,” Couture said. “We have to keep working together and keep our heads up and play strong the whole game.”

“We need to make sure we have as many games where we play a consistent 80 minutes as we can,” Farley said. “If we do, we’ll be tough.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Previous Scarborough-Portland results

Scarborough 4 @ Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 2 Portland 1 

Scarborough 5 @ Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 3 Portland 0 

Scarborough 6 @ Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 8 Portland 0 

Scarborough 3 @ Portland 1 

Portland 2 @ Scarborough 0 

Scarborough 2 @ Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 1 Portland 1 (tie) 

Scarborough 3 @ Portland 2 

@ Scarborough 6 Portland 2
Western A quarterfinal
@ Scarborough 1 Portland 0 

@ Portland 1 Scarborough 0 

Western A quarterfinal
@ Scarborough 2 Portland 0 

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.